If you spend any time with Stephen Wells, you are immediately struck by how humble he is. 

Genuinely humble. 

He politely re-directs any conversation about his remarkable record of achievement across his 39 years at the Cats and defers credit to others where he can. 

In the lead up to the 2023 AFL Draft, Wells sat down with Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling for a wide-ranging interview as part of the Legends of Kardinia Park series, thanks to McCafe.

Unsurprisingly, Wells’s mind is a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes about some of the greatest players in Geelong history. 


He talks about Gary Ablett Jnr’s first summer at Kardinia Park and the moment they knew ‘Little Gaz’ as he calls him was special, to the decision to select key defender Harry Taylor over Scott Selwood, despite having the reigning All-Australian Centre Half Back in Matt Egan already on the list.

And then there was the follow-up phone call to Bryce Selwood to explain why Scott wouldn’t be coming to Geelong. 

There was also the time he and premiership coach Mark Thompson took a road trip to visit the homes of young prospects James Kelly and Steve Johnson. You might have heard of them.

“We went to a lot of different houses, but we did go to the Kellys and we did go to the Johnsons, and Mark and I both agreed when we came out of there that they were two of the sort of players that we'd like to have at our club”, he recalls with a laugh. 

Wells has had his fingerprints all over all four of the premierships since 2007 and every other success Geelong has enjoyed on the field over the past four decades, and most would agree that he deserves every bit of the praise that comes his way. 

But if you really want to understand ‘Wellsy’ as he is affectionately known by virtually everyone in the industry, it's in how much he cares for his footy club and how much he cares for the people who go through it.

“It's a results based business, and not only do we want players to have good, long careers, but we want them to play in a lot of winning games and help us win premierships,” he said.


“But I feel just as strongly about the 'stars' of our team, the guys that play in three premierships, or captains, as I do about the fellas that play a few games and actually made the most of their opportunity because they weren't quite at the level, but they gave absolutely everything they possibly could.” 

And If you really want to understand the depths of what his football club means to him, ask him about 2007. The year the Cats finally broke the drought. 

It’s clearly personal for him, and talking to Ling, he is disarmingly apologetic as raw emotion gets the better of him. 

The tears, it seems, surprise even him.

“I feel a bit emotional (talking about it)” he said.

“You said before about being a Geelong barracker, and... Yeah, I barracked for the footy club and it was a culmination of a lot of work with a lot of great people.

“But as a Geelong barracker, I couldn't do anything on Grand Final day. I was just there watching with my family and having a great time watching the Cats win that premiership. 

“You told me you wouldn't make me cry!”


He laughs as he wipes away the tears. The laughs and the smile seem to come easy for somebody that appears to love his job as much as he loves his Cats.

It’s a strength of football clubs like Geelong that they mean so much to people, not the least the people inside them, but as talk turns to the 2022 triumph, it’s lined with another surprising feeling: doubt.

The Cats had been to multiple preliminary finals since the 2011 flag, and naturally, he said, the doubts were creeping in. 

“My personality is that there's always doubts," he said.

“I'm always questioning if we should be doing something different, or how's it going to be better next year than it was last year but fortunately working with great coaches and the stability within the place keeps reminding us that we're heading on the right track.

“I think it's reasonable to question what you're doing most of the time. We question ourselves and then we're able to say, yeah let's keep going with this and try to improve in that area and we'll give ourselves another chance.”

Building what ultimately becomes a premiership team is a complicated task, and not one that can be easily explained, but it does include having a bit of luck, as Wells likes to say. 

But he does say that three players, in particular, changed the 2022 team.


“Tyson Stengle, coming in through unusual circumstances where he was a delisted free agent, so we were able to convince him to come, which helped us a lot. 

“Max Holmes, who we'd done an enormous trade for, trading our future first round pick to bring Max into the club in his draft year helped us in that midfield, and then Sam De Koning down back as a tall that was able to, in his own way, play the positions that Harry Taylor and Lachie Henderson had played for us for a long time and did a great job for us. 

“Sadly, Max didn't get to play in a Grand Final but he was an enormous part of us getting there. So those three positions, three young players, changed the dynamic of the team a bit.”

The rest, as they say, is history, as the Cats reeled off 16 straight wins all the way through to that one day in September. But the way it was done, and in the manner, it was, took even Wells by surprise.

"It was, as a Geelong supporter, just beautiful to watch. Obviously," he says. 

"I think every genuine football watcher would say it was beautiful footy.

"Oh yeah, it was a surprise that it all came together so dominantly in those last couple of games because the teams we were playing were terrific teams in their own right and on a different day, who knows, there may have been a different result."

But does it happen without the challenges of the previous few years? We’ll never know for sure, but Wells thinks there could be something to it. 

“In the end, our players had developed that resilience from being close but not quite there in the previous ten years, and, then everything went our way. 

“Everything went right, we had nearly full availability, all except for Max in that last game, and the confidence the team had, the maturity the team had, it all seemed to fall into place.”

But one thing we can be sure of, however, is that Stephen Wells would have been standing to the side, out of teh spotlight, as humble as ever, but bursting with pride. 

The latest episode of Legends of Kardinia Park is now available to watch on geelongcats.com.au